Reading

Book Report: June 2015

Book Report: June 2015

It’s the middle of the year (tomorrow to be exact). It’s a good time to look back on what happened so far in 2015 and to reassess any reading goals, projects, and challenges that we have embarked upon. Below are some of mine:

  • My Goodreads Reading Challenge of 52 books tells me that I’m on track, which pleases me because I haven’t read a lot back in the first quarter and my efforts to catch up in the second quarter paid off.
  • The Year of Reading the NBCC is slow but I hope that it will pick up some pace this quarter.
  • My 2015 review backlog is piling up, but I will try to resolve that. That includes both reviews for my blog and The Short Story Station. I’m always writing reviews in my head during commutes but when I get home, I change clothes, lie down, and play some mobile games. Then read.

Books Finished:

  • Drown by Junot Díaz – Because I went to the beach and I thought the title was so apt. 5 out of 5 stars.
  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson –  I can’t wait for the next book of this quartet. 5 out of 5 stars.
  • Macbeth by William Shakespeare – I was inspired by Marion Cotillard and of course, by Michael Fassbender. 4 out of 5 stars.
  • The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett – Our book of the month for June. 3 out of 5 stars.
  • The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields – The Year of Reading the NBCC (19/40). 4 out of 5 stars.
  • The Swimming-Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst – My LGBT read for the Pride Month. 3 out of 5 stars.

Currently Reading:

  • Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald – On page 55 of 415. I’m reading this with some of my favorite book bloggers.
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson – On page 187 of 271. When will I finish this?

Maybe:

  • The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
  • The Quiet American by Graham Greene
  • Rabbit Redux by John Updike
  • Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

New Books:

  • The Bonds of Interest by Jacinto Benavente – Something for my Noble Nobel Project. (Php 225.00, Undertow Books, June 18)
  • Finnegans Wake by James Joyce – This would be one of those books that will be displayed on my shelf for a long time. I intend to read The Iliad, The Odyssey, and Ulysses, in that order, before attempting this. (Php 300.00, Undertow Books, June 18)
  • The Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek – Another book for one of my reading projects, this time for The Novel 100/125. (Php 225.00, Undertow Books, June 18)
  • The Hair of Harold Roux by Thomas Williams – One of those NBA winners that I am pretty sure I won’t find copies of but prove me wrong, obviously. (Php 115.00, Book Sale – SM Mega Mall, June 17)
  • The Novel Cure by Elaine Berthoud and Susan Elderkin – I’ve been sporadically reading the authors’ column at The Independent until I was goaded by recent reviews to finally get its book form. (Php 625.50, The Book Depository, June 17)
  • The Quiet American by Graham Greene – I can now stand ebook copies if I really need to read a book, such as an elusive book of the month, such as this. But I cannot stand ebook copies with too many typographical errors. I fear that such carelessness would destroy my reading experience, and I’ve been looking forward to reading Greene for so long. And so I turned to eBay, which I haven’t thought about for so long. (Php 500.00, eBay, June 17)

I’ve thought of doing a vlog for my best books of 2015 so far but I’m too self-conscious when recording myself. When I’m able to let go of that self-consciousness, my facial expressions get way out of control that they become distracting, both for me and possibly the viewers. So I’ll just list them down here, in the order when they were read. I’ll try the vlog thing next time (also, I want to get haircut before doing any kind of video recording).

  • Middlemarch by George Eliot
  • Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
  • Inverted World by Christopher Priest
  • Ubik by Philip K. Dick
  • Monstress by Lysley Tenorio
  • Drown by Junot Díaz
  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson

And if you’ve noticed, I reverted my theme to the previous one. I’m so restless! I have to keep in line with my goals instead of constantly playing around with themes. If I do two reviews per week (every weekend), perhaps I could keep my 2015 review backlog from reaching an insurmountable level (see 2013 and 2014). That’s certain, but what’s uncertain is if I could stick with it.

And to force me to keep up, I came up with a condition, that I will not allow myself to start a book unless I review at least one book. Gasp! That would threaten my other goal of reading 52 books, but if I’m able to stick with this condition, it will help keep two goals going on. What do you think? Please don’t tell me that I’m obsessing over this (because that’s given) or that I’m putting too much pressure on myself or that I should just sit back and relax.

You see, blogs don’t and cannot flourish if one just sits around and relaxes. And I want to keep this blog alive. It’s the most worthwhile thing that I keep, even better than my journals. Cheesy, I know, but I like how blogging makes me forget about the world. I like the monthly routine of these reports, the ranting and raving to the vast stream of the Internet about the books that I read, the projects that I take on and abandon only to pick up again at a later point, the comments (I really appreciate them), and the state of getting lost, or rooted, depending on one’s perspective, in a small patch of virtual land that you have dominion over.

Book Report: May 2015

Book Report: May 2015

It has been a little quiet here so I played with my theme. I feel the need to do that whenever nothing is happening on this blog. Aside from that, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. In fact, it has been a long while since I managed to finish more than five books within a month. I checked my reading history and found out that in the first half of 2012, one of my two prolific reading years, I clocked in between five to seven books per month. I even set a record for May 2012: nine books.

Why am I obsessing over this? Surely, it’s not the quantity but the quality, eh? No, I don’t subscribe to that idea. There’s so little time that I must not waste for kissing and fondling my quality books for inordinate periods when there are so many more possibly quality books waiting to be discovered. Also, I like setting goals. If there’s a number that I have to beat, I feel compelled to keep reading. However, this does not mean that reading goals are my main motivation for reading. It’s a sort of challenge to make a solitary activity more exciting.

Okay, so there’s one ugh book in my report this month but it was assigned reading. I even got to write a review for it, which is quite ironic because I didn’t bother with the others. But I will make time for them. I’ll do my best to stop watching random videos on YouTube and to come up with write-ups.

Books Finished:

  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz – Our book of the month for May. 4 out of 5 stars.
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin – One of my picks for my book club discussion in August. 4 out of 5 stars.  (USD 15.30, The Book Depository, May 7)
  • The Middleman and Other Stories by Bharati Mukherjee – The Year of Reading the NBCC (18/40). 3 out of 5 stars.
  • Monstress by Lysley Tenorio – One of my reading dares/challenges for this year. 5 out of 5 stars.
  • October Light by John Gardner – The Year of Reading the NBCC (17/40). 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by James Asher – 1 out of 5 stars.
  • Ubik by Philip K. Dick – 5 out of 5 stars. It looks like this will be the book that I’ll be discussing with the book club. We’ll find out in a few more days after the voting period is over. (USD 12.69, The Book Depository, May 7)

Currently Reading:

  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson – On page 51 of 261. I restarted because I want to.
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson – On page 101 of 271. I am so close to abandoning this.

Maybe:

  • The Maltese Falcon by Dashielle Hammett
  • Rabbit Redux by John Updike
  • The Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  • The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard
  • The Year of the French by Thomas Flanagan

New Books:

  • The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro – A signed gift! Thank you! (from Bennard, May 19)

Here’s a little background about The Year of Reading the NBCC. When Lila won the 40th NBCC Award for Fiction last March, I decided to read all the NBCC fiction winners. Why? Because I have them all, because I think this award has a very good taste, and because so far, I don’t hate any of the winners unlike the other awards (Mambo Kings for the Pulitzer, Charming Billy for the NBA, and Last Orders for the Booker).

I have instantaneously made this official but think I mentioned this aspiration somewhere. If I have only imagined it, let me tell you that my to-read list is pretty much filled up by the 25 titles that I haven’t read yet. The 25 titles are now down to 22 (Billy Lynn last April, October Light and Middleman last month). So yeah, I’ll note my progress in these reports just like what I did above. As a matter of fact, I’ll also edit the previous report for Billy Lynn.

Book Report: April 2015

Book Report: April 2015

This is a great month for all things bookish. I’ve finished five books, reviewed five books, still reading four books, bought more than a dozen books, and hosted a bookish giveaway. Also, I’ve started using Goodreads again. I mean, I’m not just using it partially, like searching for reviews or joining our book club’s online activities. I’ve added all my books and shelves again. Not the reviews though; I’ve just resolved to put the links. Leafmarks is just too slow, which is unacceptable in this day and age.

Anyway, I’ll stop babbling now so that we can all enjoy the local holiday.

Books Finished:

Currently Reading:

  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz – On page 233 of 359. TFG’s book of the month this May. (Php 615.60, Fully Booked – The Fort, April 19)
  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson – On page 16 of 261. On hold. I haven’t touched it since March.
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson – On page 27 of 271. I’m putting this on my list of science fiction books for my book club discussion in August because two of my official selections have not arrived yet (and I only have three weeks left to scramble).
  • October Light by John Gardner – On page 154 of 498. Funny book!

Maybe:

  • Family Life by Akhil Sharma – This year’s winner of The Folio Prize, so I must have it and read it soon. (USD 12.72, The Book Depository, April 22)

New Books:

  • Plains Song by Wright Morris (Php 115.00, Book Sale – SM Megamall, April 6)
  • The Dream of the Red Chamber/The Story of the Stone by Cao Xueqin – I got Volumes I, III, IV, and V. Please help me find Volume II. (Php 200 each, Undertow Books, April 7)
  • Girl with Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace (Php 350.00, Undertow Books, April 7)
  • Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro (Php 300.00, Undertow Books, April 7)
  • History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell – Seriously, why did they sell this for an amount cheaper than the shipping fee? (Php 25.00, Undertow Books, April 7)
  • The Hunters by James Salter – I’ll be damned if I don’t like Salter. This is my fourth and I don’t even have an idea how the man writes. (Php 175.00, Undertow Books, April 7)
  • The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Php 175.00, Undertow Books, April 7)
  • The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (Php 225.00, Undertow Books, April 7)
  • Proud Beggars by Albert Cossery (Php 250.00, Undertow Books, April 7)
  • The Blue Fox by Sjón – Sjón is Icelandic and he is Björk’s friend. It might do me a lot of good to check out his works. (Php 180.00, Bookulaw, April 19)
  • From the Mouth of the Whale by Sjón (Php 160.00, Bookulaw, April 19)
Book Report: March 2015

Book Report: March 2015

I unlocked a reading achievement last March. I finished Middlemarch. Yes, that 800-pager Victorian classic. And I love it! I hope to write a proper review of it soon. Since I followed a reading plan for Middlemarch and since I found myself in what I call a life situation, I only finished a couple of books. I’m worried that I won’t hit my reading goal of 52 books this year, but if I keep encountering books like Middlemarch, I wouldn’t mind the scant numbers.

Books Finished:

  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy – 3 out of 5 stars. I’ve never felt so conflicted about a book, ever, so I settled with a mediocre 3. It’s also our book club’s book of the month.
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot – 5 out of 5 stars. Buddy read with H and Ycel. My first 5-star for this year, and we all agree that it’s a tough act to follow.

Currently Reading:

  • Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain – On page 172 of 307. No progress, but I’ll spend my Holy Week vacation finishing this.
  • High Fidelity by Nick Hornby – On page 105 of 245. Our book club’s pick for April.
  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson – On page 16 of 261. I was prompted to start it when it won the NBCC award for fiction, but I had to pause because of my reading commitments (the book club book and the buddy read).

Maybe:

  • Inverted World by Christopher Priest
  • October Light by John Gardner

New Books – None. What? This is not happening! But expect a deluge next month. I am waiting for three books from The Book Depository and I just paid for a dozen books at Undertow Books. Hah!

Here’s a couple of addenda to this report:

  • I’m retiring the TFG: The Book Club posts. If you’ve noticed, I haven’t posted anything about our book club since the start of this year. That’s not because I quit our book club. I’m just lazy. Besides, our book club events deserve their own home. Wink, wink.
  • I’ve been thinking of two topics that I wish to discuss in the near future: rating books and speed reading. I hope to dish out my “think piece” on each topic this month.

Book Report: February 2015

Book Report: February 2015

It’s already the last third of the first quarter of the year. Yeahyeahyeah, I always act amazed when I say that it’s already the beginning of this or that month, that time flies by so fast, but that’s mostly because I feel that I’m always lagging. There’s so much to read! New books bought, books agreed to be read along bookish friends, book club selections, bookish lists and breakthroughs, dares and recommendations, etc. Considering all these, time not only flies by. It zooms, just like that.

For February, I finished my ugh, fifth book. At this pace, I will only finish 30 books by December. That’s 20 books short of my target. I shouldn’t concern myself too much with the numbers. Quality over quantity, huh? However, I really can’t say that the books I’ve read are of that high quality. Quality is relative, I know, so let’s just say I haven’t had a 5-star read yet.

Books Finished:

  • Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos – 1 out of 5 stars. Our book club’s book of the month.
  • Rabbit, Run by John Updike – 3 out of 5 stars. I am still going to push through with the Rabbit series because I know that the last two of this quarter are what the critics are raving about.

Currently Reading:

  • Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain – On page 172 of 307. The first book that made me write marginalia. I’ve been averse to this habit until Tim Parks convinced me to use a weapon while reading. I’ve always worshipped the book as a physical object. I still do. I still can’t bear to dog-ear the pages or crack the spine. I don’t think I will go into that. Yes, I always say that I will not do this or that but I really do know that for sure (because folding and cracking are destructive as opposed to writing, which I think helps in understanding the ideas in the book). Anyway, I’m hoping that this would be my first 5-star of the year. Actually, it looks like it’s going there.
  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy – On page 118 of 321. It’s our book of the month. I have no idea what this is about. My edition has no blurb, and you might already know that I’m the kind of person who reads everything in the book before reading the actual start of the book. The experience is like finding your way out of a labyrinth of segmented writing filled with juxtaposed metaphors and weird, sometimes icky, imagery.
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot – On page 78 of 826. What better time of the year than March should one read this? I’m reading this along with my friends H and Y. We are on a weekend break, according to the reading plan that we devised, but I am aching to read more of it tonight.

Maybe – With Middlemarch consuming my reading life in March, I don’t think there’s time to squeeze in some maybe books. But let’s make room for miracles.

  • Inverted World by Christopher Priest
  • October Light by John Gardner

New Books – This is the Singapore edition of this post’s segment. I wish I could say that I bought something from every book store that I visited there (I went to three last February 5), but I did all my shopping at Books Kinokuniya – Orchard Road. This is because 1.) the books at Books Actually are rather expensive (I let go of the Heinrich Böll and François Mauriac books with a heavy heart) and 2.) the staff at Littered with Books were so busy chatting with each other that I could have walked out of the store with a cart of books in tow without raising an alarm. Besides these, Books Kinokuniya has the lowest price range among the three. The selections fit my taste: the right amount of literariness but not too obscure.

  • A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard – Joining the bandwagon! (SGD 19.94)
  • Iceland’s Bell by Halldór Laxness – Of course I have to have this. (SGD 25.13)
  • Missing Person by Patrick Modiano – Supposedly the new Nobel laureate’s best work. (SGD 26.95)
  • The Notebook by José Saramago – Of course I have to have this, too. (SGD22.63)

Some of the books that I let go are Under the Glacier by Halldór Laxness, The Lives of Others by José Saramago, The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber, Redeployment by Phil Klay, and How to be Both by Ali Smith (I was following the budget plan that I made). I would have bought When I Was a Child I Read Books by Marilynne Robinson and Where I’m Reading From by Tim Parks, but they are not available.